25 August 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Our guest today is Roger Meece, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is joining us by videoconference from Goma.

**Security Council

As you know, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council during its open debate on Somalia piracy this morning.

He said that more could be done and he added that that would require political and financial commitment from Member States.  He set out seven possible options to further the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.  The Council, as you will have seen, later adopted a Presidential Statement on this topic.

And also, as you will have seen, while addressing the Security Council, the Secretary-General also spoke about this latest incident of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He said it was one more brutal reminder of the challenges of keeping the peace and protecting civilians in conflict zones.  At such times, he said, we should always ask if we could have done more.  He requested that the Security Council members seriously consider what more could be done – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere – to ensure the successful protection of civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations.

**United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, says it has completed the investigation into the exchange of fire incident between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defence Forces in El Adeisse area on 3 August of this year.

It says both the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defence Forces cooperated fully with the UNIFIL team during the investigation and that the report confirms the preliminary conclusions of UNIFIL.  The UNIFIL Force Commander, Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, said he hoped that this report would assist the parties in preventing the reoccurrence of such incidents.

**Noon Briefing Guest – Tomorrow

Tomorrow, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to give a farewell press conference to the UN press corps.

I can take a couple of questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  This morning in the Security Council, the Secretary-General said that he now has a special adviser for legal issues pertaining to the piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and Ambassador Rice mentioned a name.  Could you confirm it?

Spokesperson:  We expect to be able to provide you with a confirmed name tomorrow.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  I just want to ask about the UNIFIL statement.  I mean can you at least just tell us what were the…I know you said it was similar to the preliminary result, you know, but what’s the final conclusion about who shot first in this confrontation between the Lebanese Army and the Israeli Army?

Spokesperson:  Well, the report is being sent to the parties today and the investigation with its findings and its conclusions and recommendations was sent to the United Nations Headquarters and, not least, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  That happened overnight.  Obviously, possibly pre-empting your next question, when is it going to the Security Council:  not sure yet.  At that point, I think you would get an answer to your question.

Question:  You’re not going to like give us something…details of the report, maybe tomorrow?  When are we likely to get…I mean before it was…

Spokesperson:  For the time being, I can tell you what I have here.  As I say, the report was transmitted overnight and is being given to the parties today.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Martin, does, I mean, has the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General representing the United Nations in Iraq, said something about these bombings in Iraq, in which several towns have been hit and which dozens of people have been killed?

Spokesperson:  We are aware of this.  The Secretary-General is aware of this.  Obviously, he has consistently condemned such acts, including these ones.  He does so again today.  If there is a statement, as I suspect there may be, from our colleagues in Bagdad, then we will certainly share that with you.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  So far, so far Secretary-General’s representative has not made any statement?

Spokesperson:  You’ve just heard what I said, I think, Masood.  I think you’ve just heard what I’ve said.

Question:  Sure, Somalia and then Sri Lanka.  First, just to follow-up on April’s question, on the Secretary-General’s schedule, whether it was…I don’t know if it was yesterday or the day before, it had a meeting with Jack Lang and described him as the new Special Adviser on Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.  Is that, I mean, so given that, is he the individual and what are his qualifications, given that he was Minister of Culture.  I’ve heard he was also a jurist, but what’s the nexus between Jack Lang and piracy, that he’s being given this post?

Spokesperson:  As I say, you can anticipate an announcement tomorrow.

Question:  Okay.  So no answer.  Also, in Somalia, there’s a…there’s renewed fighting, obviously, in light of the al-Shabaab attack on the hotel, and there are some that are saying that Bakara market has again been shelled by AMISOM troops and that many civilians, you know, have been killed.  I wonder if it’s something that the UN is tracking, how, given that it provides logistical support to the AMISOM troops.  What is being done to ensure that their response to the hotel attack doesn’t involve killing of unrelated civilians.  Do you have anything on that?

Spokesperson:  Not right now, but let me find out.

Question:  Okay, thanks, thanks.  And also, there…in…in…this is sort relates to that Sri Lanka panel, which I’m obviously I’m going to ask when has the clock started or did the Secretary-General speak with the Chairman, Mr. Darusman.  There are reports in the Sri Lankan press that both the Permanent Representative and the Deputy Permanent Representative slots of Sri Lanka are being changed.  The DPR spot is empty and one, the person being sent, according to the Sri Lankan press, was a commander that was in charge of the battalion that shot surrendering troops that came out with a white flag as somehow negotiated or spoken to by Mr. Nambiar.

What I want to know is, if these reports in Sri Lanka are true, and if such individuals that were actively involved in the final stage of the conflict in Sri Lanka, which is now being investigated by Sri Lanka and advised in, does the Secretary-General have to accept a…a…when he says he accepts credentials, is this an automatic rubber stamp?  Can a country send, could Sudan send Ahmed Haroun and that would be accepted?  What’s the Secretary-General’s discretion in holding those photo-ops and credentials?  Does he have the freedom like a country does to reject someone who is submitted?

Spokesperson:  On the general point about the procedure, I would need to find out. I do not know.  But on the specific, I’m not going to enter into hypotheticals.  On the earlier part of, I think it was a question, on the panel, the timing, to my knowledge, the clock has not yet started.  I think it’s being wound up.  It should start soon.

Question:  What it explains sort of…can you say…some have said that actually there was some sort of a sickness or there’s some cause there…that a family member of one of the panel members was sick.  That’s why the thing hasn’t begun yet.  Because it seems sort of strange to have…I mean I’m not…I guess I’m just wondering, is there something beyond the UN’s control or is it just a desire to…

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, no.  I think that this is related in part to ensuring that the support people for the panel are in place and also that the three panel members can come together again, as we’ve said.  And at that point, the clock will start.  Okay, thank you very much.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  ‘Cause you keep on shifting towards that side so, quickly, I just wanted to know, yesterday OCHA said that it needs at least six helicopters to deal with 800,000 people displaced in Pakistan.  Has there been any country which has offered helicopters as yet?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of that.  I know that WFP has made repeated calls for helicopters.  We’ve said so here and I’ve seen both them and colleagues from OCHA widely quoted in the media in Pakistan and from elsewhere.  I’m not aware of specific offers.  I’m sure that my colleagues from WFP or from OCHA would be able to help you if they have the information.  Clearly, even if there have been offers, and they would be gratefully received, more would still be needed.

Thank you very much.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon and bon après-midi à tous.

Just a short and sad note, as you are probably aware, two former Presidents of the General Assembly recently passed away.  His Excellency Professor Guido de Marco, who sadly passed away on 12 August 2010, was President of the General Assembly at its forty-fifth session.  His Excellency Samir Shihabi, who sadly passed away on 20 August 2010, was President of the General Assembly at its forty-sixth session.  His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki presided over a tribute to the memories of the two former Presidents in the General Assembly at its 113th meeting.  President Treki had already conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family and Government of Malta, as well as to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  For those who would like, we have biographies or a few notes on the two former Presidents.  That’s what I have for you today.  Yes?

Question:  I was wondering if there was any update on the [inaudible] report, now that you’ve got the report of the Secretary-General.  Is the President of the GA planning anything on this level?

GA Spokesperson:  I will ask the President if there is something is planned.  So far, nothing has changed over the past few days.

Question:  So, no consultations to hold the session for the GA, I mean to decide what’s next after getting the GA…the SG report?

GA Spokesperson:  I will ask the President.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to…to ask about two resolutions.  Not the revitalizing of the General Assembly one, but the one by the European Union to gain what some are calling sort of special rights.  Can you explain what that resolution is seeking and whether it’s…the EU says that they have the votes.  I mean, I don’t expect you to opine on that, but maybe to explain…it was said that Catherine Ashton didn’t come to the GA’s session on Pakistan because she didn’t yet have the ability to speak.  Is the President aware of that and…and where does it stand in terms of…is it…is it…is the EU resolution going to be voted on in this General Assembly or after the new one begins during the general debate?

GA Spokesperson:  I think that on the substance of the draft resolution, you would be better advised to seek further clarification from the European Union and from the spokespersons.  But, for what may come next, I will definitely check with our colleagues in the General Assembly Affairs, and with our Office, to find out if we can provide a more specific response to your query.

Question:  And did Catherine Ashton, did she speak to President Treki in connection with not coming to, but in connection to the Pakistan meeting?  She…she said that she spoke to the Secretary-General, although his readout doesn’t include this part of the conversation, and said that she would have come if she could have spoken to the GA.  I just wonder whether she called, to your knowledge, called President Treki and made the same communication she made to Mr. Ban.

GA Spokesperson:  Had there been anything official from our end, or formal, I would have told you.  But I’ll go back and check and find out if there has been a communication between her and the President.

Question:  Okay and then…you probably won’t answer this one either, but the Serbian resolution about the International Court of Justice decision, there’s a lot of controversy about pressure being brought to bear that they withdraw it.  Has the President’s Office had any involvement in the sort of negotiations around whether this resolution will go forward or not?  Is he…what does he think of uh…of these tensions about this important issue of sovereignty.

GA Spokesperson:  On the three key words that you pronounce, controversy, consultation or negotiations, intention, this is very hypothetical.  I wouldn’t go there.

Question:  You won’t go there?

GA Spokesperson:  I won’t go there because there is a draft resolution.  We have to take things in stride and get there, when this will be discussed.  I think 9 September is not that far.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

All right.  No further questions?  Keep warm and dry and have a good afternoon.

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For information media • not an official record